We need to face the whole truth about Martin Luther King, Jr.Roundup
tags: Martin Luther King, civil rights, FBI, Jr., David Garrow
Jonathon Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author (with Emily Robertson) of “The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools."
It is very old news that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a serial adulterer. But recently declassified government reports suggest that he might also have been an accomplice to sexual assault, which is a much more serious matter. He allegedly watched and laughed while one of his friends raped a woman.
Can we talk about that?
Apparently not. Most of my fellow historians have kept quiet or denounced David Garrow, the scholar who brought the new information to light. Civil rights activists have dismissed the story as a racist plot to discredit King. And most major media outlets have stayed away from the accusation, too, except to raise doubts about it.
Let’s be clear: There was a racist plot against Martin Luther King, Jr., who was illegally wiretapped and harassed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the reactions to this latest episode smack of a different kind of conspiracy, which historians should both recognize and resist: the conspiracy of silence.
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